Good morning! Today, I invite us to read Lamentations 4 and 5 as Swiss theologian Karl Barth suggested that preachers preach: with the Bible in one hand, and the newspaper in the other. In the last several days, it has been hard to miss news stories about refugees and migrants—from America to Italy to Syria and beyond. The heartsickness and grave physical destitution of displaced peoples today and of residents in ancient Jerusalem is all from the same cloth. It comes about through warring violence as a direct cause, yet there are primal social sins at work as well.
Good morning! We have only a single chapter today, Lamentations 3, but it covers huge ground in terms of personal feelings toward God. I find myself disagreeing with some sentiments, agreeing whole-heartedly with others, and ultimately finding grace in the fact that one can express all these emotions in deep relation to God.
Good morning! Today we start the short book of “Lamentations”, which is reportedly the laments of Jeremiah at the start of exile. Chapters 1-2, like throughout the rest of the book, place the focus on the conditions in Jerusalem after the exile. As one author writes, “The vividness and local color found in this book, as well as the freshness and intensity of feeling expressed in it, suggest that the author was a Judean survivor remaining behind in the land and writing in close proximity to the catastrophic demise of the nation in 586 B.C.E.” After all hope of changing ways has passed, this text focuses on just lamenting the way things have turned out.
Good morning! Today’s passage (Jerusalem 52) is a lighter one, but only in terms of length. This epilogue of sorts connects the description of Jerusalem’s destruction (which we’ve heard detailed before) with a snippet of life in Babylon.
Good morning! Yesterday we heard oracles of divine judgment against a variety of nations. Today that theme continues, but focuses exclusively on Babylon. Jeremiah 50-51 shows a comprehensive condemnation of Babylon as it’s overwhelmed by a new power from “the north”, with corresponding consequences for the people of Israel who are captive in Babylon.
Good morning! Today and tomorrow in Jeremiah we have a series of “oracles against the nations”. One civilization after another receives rebuke for various sins, and we hear how God will send destruction their way. It’s only sometimes spelled out explicitly, but we are to understand that the Babylonians who visit such misery on those they conquer are doing so as agents of God. This is how the writers of this portion of Scripture try to make sense of the fact that bad things are happening in a world where there’s an omnipotent divinity. God must be using these calamities that abound in the world—more, God must be orchestrating them. Therefore, Jeremiah can square why a good God with all the power in the world would still let bad things happen in it. Today in Jeremiah 47-49 we see this thinking deployed in prophecies against numerous nations, especially Moab.
Good morning! Yesterday we journeyed along with Jeremiah through a variety of competing leaders in Judah, and then read how he was compelled against his will to go down to Egypt with the refugees there. Today we read his further denunciations of idolatrous Hebrew practices in Egypt, along with prophesies that Egypt too will fall to Babylon’s advancing forces.
Good morning! Today’s reading (Jeremiah 39-43) covers a lot of ground (so to speak) with refugees from Jerusalem, describing what happens as and after Babylonian forces overwhelm the walls of the city. What most catches my attention on this reading is the absolute chaos that ensues after Jerusalem falls. One wishes this were required reading for any military commander contemplating “regime change”, as though it were as simple as replacing a lightbulb.
Good morning! Prophets and kings have had rocky relationships for generations in the Hebrew Scriptures, going all the way back to Nathan confronting David about his treatment of Bathsheba and Uriah. At issue is the power that kings have over all their subjects (including prophets), and conversely, the unusual but essential liberties that prophets take to confront the powerful, even those with the ability to take their lives. Today in Jeremiah 36-38, we read how the prophet endured the consequences of conflict with the kings Jehoiakim and Zedekiah.
Good morning! As today’s passage (Jeremiah 33-35) opens, we find the prophet confined to house arrest, likely because of disfavor with King Zedekiah. (More on him in a moment.) Imprisonment doesn’t hinder Jeremiah’s prophecy though, for either ill or good. He gives the residents of Jerusalem a preview of the coming slaughter by Chaldeans (another word for the Babylonians), but then a promise of restoration by God’s power. Jeremiah reiterates God’s faithfulness to the covenant with David—the idle musings of those who presume God abandoned Israel and Judah are entirely false.